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A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
17 Jun 2009
Andreas Scholl at Wigmore Hall
Strikes on the London Underground system may have made this a particularly exhausting and exasperating week for Londoners, but despite these wearing adversities Friday evening saw an eager crowd flock to the Wigmore Hall, in excited anticipation of an inspiring and invigorating blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar — and they were not disappointed.
Scholl’s exquisite tonal beauty and superb clarity of diction are well-known to, and relished by, lovers of song, and both were much in evidence here. But few in the audience can have been familiar with the songs of the fifteenth-century German composer, Oswald von Wolkenstein, or with the startling timbral blend of the voices and instruments of the ensemble, Shield of Harmony — although after this stunning performance there is no doubt they will be eager for more.
Oswald von Wolkenstein was a poet, musician, nobleman and diplomat. An aristocrat, he was deeply involved in the political events of his time; moreover, travels in Europe, from the early age of 10, exposed him to an eclectic range of musical influences. In particular he absorbed the sophistications and developments of French song and incorporated troubadour idioms from the Romance languages into the German court context, revolutionising the German tradition.
His songs reflect the variety of his life; indeed, mimicking the songs of the early troubadours, they provide an autobiographical passage through his travels, exploits, loves and careers, spiced with philosophical ruminations, political observations and humorous drolleries. Typical of the period, the sacred blended subtly with the sexual. This recital presented a variety of forms, long narratives interspersed with shorter lyrics and instrumental solos.
Scholl’s enunciation was superlative throughout. Indeed, there is a spoken quality to many of these songs — Spruchdichtung — forming a continuum with Wolkenstein’s poetry, and reflecting the unity of poetry and song in this period. Like a story-teller, Scholl enhanced the narrative effect by occasionally beginning with a spoken introduction which evolved naturally into song - as in ‘Es fuegt sich’ (‘It happened’), whose three parts formed a framework for the recital. Here Scholl deftly recreated Wolkenstein’s character, telling of his travels in distant lands, his musical, mercantile and military accomplishments, and his amorous adventures.
Scholl’s voice was unfailingly sweet and warm, never cloying, and loveliest in the upper range, as in one of the evening’s highlights, ‘Herz, müt, leib’ (‘Heart, mind, body’). His soothed and lured the audience, drawing them into his tale: we celebrated his pride and success - ‘Many a wise man has valued my advice,/ like my tuneful songs’ - and laughed at his mischievous opportunism: ‘Many things then came easily,/ when I wore the monk’s hood,/ in truth, never before or after were girls so friendly, as they listened to my chatter’.
And we experienced the intensity of his passion — his anguish and yearning for transfiguration being worthy of a Schubert lied:
‘When I’m with her, I lose my equilibrium,
because of a woman I must travel a bad road,
into the wilds, until her dislike mercifully vanishes;
if she would help me, my sadness would become bliss.’ (‘Es fuegt sich’, part 2)
Most of Wolkenstein’s songs are monophonic, but Scholl was joined by Kathleen Dineen in two duets, ‘Ach senliches leiden’ (‘Alas heartfelt pain’) and the mesmerising ‘Nu rue mit sorgen’ (‘Now rest from your cares’), in which the exquisite union of these two unaffected voices effortlessly conveyed the erotic charge of the text and the poignancy of loss and pain.
The instrumental pieces provided variety and charm, the players of Shield of Harmony demonstrating considerable rhythmic dexterity and delighting in the complex, simultaneous use of duple and triple rhythms.
So hypnotising was this performance that I suspect many in the audience, like this listener, failed to notice when Scholl slipped effortlessly to a baritone voice for final song.
Scholl and Shield of Harmony demonstrated total mastery of this material: golden voices appropriate to this golden age of German minnesang.